By Dayo Johnson, Akure; Samuel Oyadongha,
Yenagoa; Festus Ahon, Asaba; Umar Yusuf, Yola; Jimitota Onoyume, Warri; Tina Akannam, Dutse; Peter Duru, Makurdi; Egufe Yafugborhi, Port Harcourt;
Peter Okutu, Abakaliki; Chioma Onuegbu, Uyo; Charles Agwam,
Bauchi; David Odama, Lafia; Ozioruva Aliu, Benin city; Shins Abubakar, Osogbo; James Ogunnaike, Abeokuta and
Ibrahim HassanWuyo, Kaduna
Agitations for self determination became pronounced in the south eastern part of the country in the eighties following perceived marginalisation by the Federal Government with a group, Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, lately championing the cause for a separate Biafra nation. In the south, calls never ceased for restructuring of the country due to alleged monopoly of power by the northern oligarchy. Only last month, Yoruba activist, Sunday Igboho declared a Yoruba nation saying his ethnic group no longer wished to be part of Nigeria, arguing that the rest of the country were being treated by the north as second class citizens in their own country. Although there were oppositions, his declaration enjoyed the support of many others. President Muhammadu Buhari has however spoken against secession by any section of the country. But what should the president and his government do to keep Nigeria united amidst calls for secession by some of his compatriots. Nigerians proffer solutions.
FG should address issue of injustice
A former member of the House of Representatives, and Chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom, Hon. Eseme Eyiboh said “the first thing for this government to do to ensure unity of Nigeria is to address the issue of injustice. As a Nigerian I am entitled to all the rights and privileges of a citizen. But where appointment for instance does not reflect the Federal Character principle which is a constitutional issue, it diminishes the hope of being a citizen and gives rise to all tendencies. Secondly, we must come back and look at the leadership recruitment culture, what kind of people are we recruiting into national institutions either by election or by appointment? Because of who they are, we have lost great respect from the citizens. Most of these people are religious bigots, ethnic champions and economic saboteurs. Thirdly, there must be enforcement of law and order. They must ensure the justice system meets the prescription of democracy, which is equality before the Law”
Insecurity must be tackled
Mr Sunny Mene, the Secretary, Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, ILoT, an apex Itsekiri platform advised the Federal Government to tackle issues of insecurity. His words: “The primary responsibility of any government is the provision of security and ensure there is peace. The average Nigerian cannot sleep with two eyes closed or travel without security concerns. Farmers cannot go to their farms due to insecurity. There is an urgent need to reorganize our security architecture. The centralized police system can not respond adequately to current challenges.”
Buhari should convoke Sovereign National Conference
In his own contribution, Chairman, Media and Publicity Bureau of Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, Chief Abia Onyike said, “For the agitation for secession to come to an end and build a united nation, we need to build a federation where equity, justice, freedom and fairness abound. The old regional blocks/geopolitical zones should become autonomous regions. There should be a new people’s constitution to be enacted by the Nigerian people. Nigeria is too large to be governed from one centre.
“The only solution against the rising quest for secession in Nigeria is to convoke a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) to renegotiate the basis of the continuation of the Nigerian federation. The idea of Fulani hegemony in a large federation with mega ethnic nationalities such as the Igbo is a useless enterprise which must be jettisoned in nation building.”
Present constitution must be amended
A human rights activist and constitutional lawyer, Dr Akpor Mudiaga-Odje said: “As expected, the President would always want the present geographical and demographic structure of Nigeria to remain so. Firstly, the unitary centered Constitution favours the President and the hegemonic interests of the Northern oligarchy. We therefore suggest that the President should partner the National Assembly on the amendment of the constitution to infuse the tenets of true federalism into same and restructure the Nigerian Federation. We still need fiscal autonomy, right to education, protection of religion and religious sects, and ultimately, granting resource control to the producing states and or regions as the case maybe.”
Buhari should implement 2014 National Confab report
National Organising Secretary of Afenifere, Apagun Kole Omololu said “President Muhammadu Buhari should revisit 2014 National conference which has more than 609 resolutions arrived at by consensus of ethnic nationalities and all members from all the strata of human endeavour in Nigeria. The master plan is therein. Insecurity has enveloped the nation. He should quickly send a bill to the national assembly for a state or regional police. Executive order can cover road, rail construction and maintenance. Let there be local management of schools and allow the principals and the board of governors to run the schools. Nigeria at present is a shame on African continent, she is a disappointment to the black race. Who wants to invest in a lawless country where the life of a cow is more important than human life.
In his own submission, Senator Nicholas Tofowomo similarly said, “President Buhari should implement the report of the National Confab set up by former President Goodluck Jonathan. Many problems confronting the nation were identified during the conference and all the six geo-political zones were duly represented then. The president should put politics aside and implement the confab report for a better and formidable Nigeria.
Sponsors of insurgency, banditry should be brought to book
Zik Gbemre, Coordinator, Niger Delta Peace Coalition, said, “A lot of things have been neglected by the President Buhari-led administration, all of which have only complicated, and made the situations/issues worse, increasing the flames of calls for secession. President Buhari has to do all that is needed to holistically address the insecurity situation in the country without delay and bring to book those actively involved and sponsoring the insurgency and criminality across the country. Buhari should also cultivate the habit of addressing Nigerians, especially when there are evident pressing developments in the country that everyone is worried and concerned about rather than leave everything to his aides. Another area that needs to be addressed is Buhari’s appointments of sensitive government officials as well as security operatives. This must be seen to cut across all the geopolitical zones. Presently, Buhari’s administration is heavily dominated by the Fulani stock. This is very unhealthy, especially for a multifaceted country like Nigeria. Another thing this administration needs to do immediately is to honour and respect the overwhelming cries of the people and initiate the restructuring of the country, by creation of more states amongst other things.”
Purge your government of nepotism
The Secretary General of Edo Unity League (EUL), Mr Moses Aigbedion, on his part urged President Muhammadu Buhari to purge his government of nepotism especially in his appointments and see the entire country as his constituency. He said: “Edo Unity League at its emergency meeting on the state of the nation wants President Buhari to urgently purge his government of nepotism, as all his political appointments are overtly stamped with nepotistic colorations. Lopsided appointments and contract awards against the southerners is one of the causes of rising tensions in the southern part of the county.”
We need a constitution to protect interests of every section
Ambassador Yemi Farounbi argued that, “it is good the president spoke against secession. Although, I have not been in support of break up anyway, but what we should do as Nigerians is to demand proper restructuring of the country. We should review the 1999 constitution and get a constitution that would protect the interest of every section of the country irrespective of population. A constitution that people will see as their constitution and allow each state or region to protect the lives and properties of its people without putting others at risk. A document that will devolve power to the state and give more responsibilities to the state and make them more accountable to the people. That is what we should seek not secession”.
Leadership must be transparent, sincere, accountable
Abdul-jabar Ayelagbe, Chairman, National Youth Council of Nigeria, Ogun State chapter said “now that President Mohammadu Buhari has spoken against secession, there must true federalism and restructuring of the administrative structure of the country. The present federal structure is one that breeds corruption, laziness, instability and unproductive consumption. If development in the real sense of it that Nigerians yearn for is to be realized the present structure needs to be restructured to encourage productivity and competitiveness to discourage laziness and ethnic bigotry. With right leadership hinged on true federalism, there will be healthy rivalry among different ethnic nationalities and issues of corruption, backwardness and many others will be reduced to the barest minimum if not totally eliminated. There must be sincere leadership for a united Nigeria. One of the greatest challenges of Nigeria State is divisive tendencies from members of the leadership cadre. Most Nigerian leaders try hard to sell sectionalism and in the end, we have not been able to organise ourselves around a national vision. The leadership cadre of Nigeria state needs to be more transparent and sincere in governance and administration of the country. The hue and cry for sectionalism today is hinged on perceived insincerity on the part of the leadership by different sections of Nigerians. There should be transparency and accountability on the part of the leadership cadre.
Mohammed Isyaku a business man and Mallam Sagir Danmalam said President Buhari must address insecurity, kidnapping, and activities of herdsmen in order to forge a united Nigeria.
Comrade Danlami, a politician tasked the APC government to do everything and keep Nigeria as one.
President must ensure fairness in governance
A journalist, Miss Hembadoon Osar, said “the President Buhari should take urgent steps to check the spate of insecurity in the country because it is fueling anger amongst the people who feel that he is failing in his responsibilities to ensure the safety of lives and property of Nigerians. Also, the President must ensure fairness in the sharing and distribution of strategic positions in the country. Sections of the country are feeling that this government is shortchanging them in the distribution of political and important positions and that is part of the reason people are not happy with the government. Let every ethnic nationality in this country have a fair share of important positions to assuage the mounting tension and calls for secession. Again he has to take a stand on the issue of herders sacking communities in the country. The impression across the country is that armed herders are enjoying his support and that is why they have the effrontery to invade the ancestral homes of Nigerians and unleash havoc on the people. The development is worsening insecurity in the country just as farmers can no longer go to the farm. Nigerians are angry because they believe he prefers to protect the interest of herders in total neglect of the farmers who can no longer access their farms because herders have taken over and he allowed it. These are part of the issues that have instigated the calls for secession from most ethnic nationalities in the country and he has to quickly address them before the country disintegrates.
He should tackle herdsmen crisis
The President General of Mzough U Tiv, MUT, worldwide, Chief Iorbee Ihagh said, “the President must as a matter of urgency tackle the herdsmen crisis in parts of the country because that crisis has provided the basis for other nagging issues like banditry and kidnappings. He has to ensure that herdsmen are disarmed in all parts of the country. Nigerians believe that his silence about the herdsmen crisis was clearly an indication that they are enjoying his support. Secondly he should send a bill to the National Assembly banning all forms of open grazing in the country. He should formally make a law for all cows in the country to be ranched. Thirdly, Buhari and his government must ensure equitable distribution of positions in this country among the ethnic groups. People are not happy that most of the positions in this government are being occupied by people from one section of this country. Everyone feels that this government is promoting nepotism and Nigerians are obviously not happy with what is happening including the issue of worsening insecurity which is gradually grinding the country to a halt.
The pioneer National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Senator Anietie Okon said “Buhari and his government cannot keep Nigeria united. It is beyond them. If he (Buhari) wants Nigeria to remain united, what has he done about the issues that make Nigerians want to secede? How can he keep Nigeria one when he flouts the constitution? The calls for secession by some sections of Nigeria were as a result of misgovernance. What we need today is a council made up of statesmen with credibility at least to a degree to pull Nigeria from the brink. Nigeria is on the brink. I said it a long time ago that I have lost confidence in the entity called Nigeria, it is not the same Nigeria that I was born into or grew up.
Mr Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, politician and businessman,said, “I quite agree that there is frustration in the land as a result of the problems which centralization of powers in the hands of the Federal Government has caused since the unfortunate military coup of 1966.The solution is not the dismemberment of the Republic but devolution of power to the component states which must start now. Nigeria will do better, and we are in fact better together if we immediately take steps to devolve powers to the states and Local Governments in areas where there is a clear national consensus”.
Federal Character should be respected
Abdul Olawale said. “it is not hard to see that recent calls for secession is caused by the seeming institutionalised injustice which is playing out today in Nigeria. The President should be fair to all the regions and give everyone a sense of belonging, especially in the appointment of people into key ministries and agencies. Today, even the blind and deaf know that every good thing is first given to people from a section of the country before others are considered. It is only natural that other regions will feel shortchanged. As President, he must keep us together by respecting Federal Character in everything he does. He can’t be saying Nigeria must not break up when he is the one fanning the embers of disunity. He must balance all the lopsided appointments and build hope, confidence and justice in our minds”.
Also reacting to president Buhari’s stand against call for secession, an APC. Chieftain and Chairman, Petroleum Dealers Association, Nasarawa Chapter, Alhaji Abubakar Shehu Usman argued that president Buhari cannot stay in the comfort of his office and condemn agitations for secession when things were going wrong. According to him, “agitations for secession can only stop when marginalization, insecurity, corruption, nepotism, banditry and other forms of injustices were addressed.
Commenting on the issue, a school teacher, Mrs Elizabeth Ajiwhen noted that no Nigerian was interested in the separation of the country, but added that insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians by the present administration was responsible for the negative reaction from some citizens of the country calling for secession.
On his part, Mr Emmanuel Cheke, a business man argued that leadership comes with challenges adding that president Buhari must take urgent steps to address some of the burning national questions to keep the unity of the country. He explained that no Nigerian would want the country divided, but remarked that president Muhammadu Buhari administration must take the bull by the horns and tackle the daunting problems confronting the nation if the country must remain as one united entity. “President Muhammadu Buhari should convene a national dialogue devoid of political sentiments where issues agitating the minds of Nigerians can be tackled and resolved”
Eric Omare, former Ijaw youth activist, said “It is not enough for President Buhari to speak against secession but his government should address the issues necessitating the call for secession. It is unfortunate that successive governments in Nigeria don’t see the persistent call for secession as a mark of failure of government to address the yearnings and aspirations of the people. In my view, for Nigerians to persistently call for secession which has been a recurring decimal since 1960 till date, it shows that as a country, successive governments have failed and the issue calls for holistic solution.
Joseph Ambakederimo, Convener South South Reawakening Group, said: “The cardinal objective of nation building should be the responsibility of all and not for a certain category of persons. This cardinal objective is to identify the destination we want Nigeria to go and what we want Nigeria to become and it should be sacrosanct. Everyone has a duty to do our bit. The President should continue to preach peace and inclusiveness at all times and this should be for all of us”.
Darlington Nwauju, Spokesman, Niger Delta Rights Advocates, said, “I believe that since the 1966 coup and counter-coup, the nation has not had such mutual mistrust and fear. I suggest community leaders, ethnic or tribal leaders must drop their clannish sentiments and put the nation first. Government should swing into action by playing up our uniqueness as a nation. It is no longer enough to read occasional presidential statements. Constant consultations with leaders of various ethnic nationalities on solving some of the grievances, can help our current situation.”
Saheed Yusuf said, the federal government needs to listen to the yearnings of every region and try to address problems peculiar to them. The government must show seriousness by tackling the many issues facing the country. For example, identifiable killers should not be walking the streets while their victims only get to hear messages of endless assurances from their President through press releases. The president should also treat all Nigerians equally, ensure equity in his appointments and tackle the insecurity in the country”.
According to Mallam Bappa waziri, a former Chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC in Adamawa state “the north needs the south, so also the south needs the north
and what the Federal Government must do now to make Nigeria one is to address the socio political and economic problems facing the country. Both the Federal Government and the agitators for the division of the country should sit at a round table meeting and discuss issues affecting the country so as to build confidence in the future generations that the country should remain an indivisible entity.